A washroom in one of the basic schools in Cape Coast
A washroom in one of the basic schools in Cape Coast

Menstrual management and hygiene: Girls call for cleaner private change spaces

Anita Simons (not real name), 16, from the Ekon community in Cape Coast uses the communal bathroom.


"When I am menstruating I have to dress up after bathing behind people’s houses close to the beach. My home is far from the beach, I can’t walk home without a pad and not soil myself.”

Anita says she has to squat behind someone's window to get herself "dressed" properly. “The thought of some young men seeing you is worrying. It takes something away from you," she said.

Its not just at home

The lack of privacy for her also stares her in the face at school. In Anita's school the doors of her washrooms have removed and are yet to be repaired.

She said one of her friends was almost bitten by a snake when she went to change her sanitary pad in school in some bushes nearby because the washrooms did not have doors.

She says because there was no privacy using the facility and especially, during those days, she becomes apprehensive, as she is afraid she may have to change sanitary pads within the day.

"I just come home and forget about the lessons I have when I really need to change during those periods," she stated It is estimated that almost 50 per cent of basic schools in the country do not have access to toilets and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities.

Emmanuella Barnes (not real name) is 17 years and also lives at Ekon in the Cape Coast metropolis. She is in senior high school and a natural leader. She therefore inspires a lot of her mates who also discuss their problems with her.

But what worries her is what she describes as low self-esteem among some of the girls because of lack of decent spaces to take care of themselves during their period.

Shielded topic

Menstruation is already a very shielded topic in many homes. "Our mothers or guardians are the ones who educate us on the inception of menstruation. Few lessons and it has to take you through a life time. Schools also help girls with few lessons and that is it,” she stated.

She said though some girls clubs have been instrumental in getting some menstrual management and hygiene lessons to adolescents, the inadequate and decent sanitary spaces for girls both in school and sometimes at home remain a worrying phenomenon for the adolescent girl.

"It seems like nothing but it demeans us as girls and impacts our self-confidence," she added.

Little talk about menstruation

In Ghana, and in most parts of our continent, Africa, many young girls cannot talk to their parents about menstruation. Many of the few that are able to ask for sanitary pads are met with complaints from their parents often because of the economic crisis or just sheer neglect of responsibility.

The adolescents, thus resort to the use of all manner of things including rags as sanitary towels, reducing their confidence further. Girls are private and with the culture that mostly sees menstruating young ladies as "unclean" girls are left to their ordeal, mute over all the challenges they face.

Young girls need clean private spaces to build their self-confidence," she stated. In most of our communities, the needs of menstruating girls are forgotten. "The greatest concern of parents, guardians and community has always been the fact that the adolescent has to stay away from sex, from the boys and ensure she does not get pregnant or contract any worrying sexually transmitted diseases and not how to ensure her well-being in managing her menses with dignity," she stated.

Indeed globally, millions of girls still lack adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management. Inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities, particularly in public places such as schools, workplaces or health centres further compound the issue.

Indeed, such rather insanitary conditions according to Emmanuella have caused some adolescent girls to lose their sense of worth and remain in a state of apprehension every month managing their cycles, gagged in cages of culture and myths.

They called for more decent sanitary facilities in schools and communities.


We don't know the infections we get from even using these facilities and the impact on us in the future. Indeed, insanitary washrooms could have dire consequence for the girls.

Specialist Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the AGA Health Foundation, Dr Abdul-Basit Wunnam Ibrahim, said the use of unclean facilities might predispose women to genital tract infections.


"The infections may be in the form of bacteria vaginosis, vaginal candidiasis and urinary tract infection," he stated. He said clean washrooms promoted healthier menstrual management.

Inadequate washrooms

A research report on availability of toilet facilities in basic schools indicated that out of some 9,604 private basic schools sampled over 1,631 had no toilets, causing an estimated 430,000 pupils in private schools to defecate outside a toilet during school hours.

The effect has been overstretched washrooms leading to insanitary facilities in many schools.

Power to choose

The Planned Parenthood Association through its ‘Power to Choose’ project has committed to working among others to get adolescents to manage menstruation in a hygienic and dignified manner.


The seven-year funded project by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) through OXFAM is to address barriers that hinder young women and adolescent girls’ access to quality sexual and reproductive health and rights. 

The coordinator of the project, Rejoice Kwawukumey, stated that apart from Ekon the project was being implemented at Brabedzi, Ankaful Fie, Kwaprow and Idan all in the Cape Coast metropolis.

She said the project would interact with stakeholders in education community to ensure girls had decent private spaces that promoted healthier menstrual management. She said the girls were also being educated to promote personal hygiene too.

"We interacted with some students last year and realised there are a lot of misconceptions and myths about menstruation that have been passed to them.” "But after our education and sensitisation programmes some parents confirmed their wards were very conscious of their hygiene now, especially when menstruating," she stated


The project also targets adolescent boys and men, community leaders and parents, health professionals, administrators and policy makers with reproductive health sensitisation.

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